I have had two excellent family oriented weekends back to back. Normally that wouldn’t lead directly to a blog but I am feeling an appreciation for all satisfying experiences now more than ever.
It all began two weeks ago when I attended the reception for my newest cousin who had just been christened. Turns out that girl really knew how to throw a party. Too bad she slept through it all.
As we sat at the big long table (there were two, one for each side of the family) we were still chatting away when we were asked to pick our entrees. I have to tell you I changed my mind literally ten times. I was hoping when the waiter got to me I would even remember what I had chosen. Apparently there were no bad choices, just huge portions.
As it was a Sunday the place was hopping. There were Italian families sitting at big tables eating smoking hot food everywhere you looked. When our waiter arrived his accent and appearance charmed most of the table, cousins of both genders. To be honest I was only paying attention to the food.
Appetizers had been pre-selected by our hosts and I am pretty sure there was every kind of food group present. I of course inhaled everything, just to be thorough. There was salad, fried calamari, baked calms with crabmeat, bacon wrapped shrimp, stuffed mushrooms, eggplant rollatini, and mussels. There were probably other offerings but those are the ones I clearly remember throwing down my piehole. To be fair, I wasn’t the only one. The rapid eating only increased as we each took a bite of something else and screamed for someone to try it. I could not believe that food I have had at every Italian place in New York City could somehow taste anew all over again.
Next was intermission. I call it this because this is the space between two courses where you literally need to come up for air. In a restaurant you cant determine if you will be rushed out for another party coming in. I am happy to report that we had more than enough time to schmooze with each other. It didn’t even feel like a dinner at a open restaurant. It felt like an intimate party. Then it was time to eat again.
Entrees were coming towards us left and right. There were a lot of specials ordered including the veal or pork chops. When they arrived it looked like they belonged in the American Museum of Natural History.
I was one of the few people who had ordered pasta, but it was Sunday. I was smart and knew that I would choose something special from a menu that was the biggest I have ever seen. My choice was the Tortellini MarcAntonio served in a spicy vodka sauce with “button” size Portobello mushrooms. For me it was an unusual choice given how little I care for tortellini in general. But something about this dish was drawing me in. I cannot believe what I ate.
The sauce was just right, not too spicy. The mushrooms provided creamy accents and those tortellinis were grown in God’s garden. I may not have been able to finish my plate that night (you know we all had doggie bags to go home with) but I was full and happy with my decision. That is more than I usually get.
For dessert, yes there is always room, there were dishes serving up small bites of signature Italian desserts. I naturally tried the Tiramisu because I love it so. It too was light and not over made with the liquor or espresso. It was the perfect combination.
Ok as if all of the above was not proof enough that you need to visit the Pines I will show you the final card I am holding. The good news here is that yet another brilliant, talented man named Frankie is beyond all of this. You know how I love a man named Frankie (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2015/04/for-my-two-favorite-frankies-frankies.html)!
Here it is Frankie Bastone who opened the original family restaurant that is now F & J’s Pine Restaurant in 1969. I spoke to a customer who remembers as far back as twenty-five years ago when the shop only consisted of a small space with the wood burning pizza oven glowing in the background. To see it now you would never suspect that it wasn’t always this gorgeous Italian restaurant that seems to be packed to the hills all day and night.
The name on the invitations sounded familiar to me but I wouldn’t make the connection until later that evening. When I arrived the smells were calling my name. A relative that had eaten here before told me all about the delicious creations but I am not a believer. I need to see or eat it for myself. Now looking back I think he really undersold it.
The name “Pine” sounded so familiar but only on the drive home did I know my instant was correct. As a chronic migraine patient I am very often at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. There is one giant building that I must go to after every appointment. That is the Pine Restaurant. It is one of my favorite places of all time. I crave their coconut shrimp for days. It actually makes the forty Botox shots I get each time I go hurt a little less.
The branding was the same at both places. Turns out my “Pine” was the latest in their expanding company. They even have cafes in two office buildings nearby. If strong meds and amazing food does not cure what ails you (at least for the time being) there is little hope for you.
I have to apologize to my readers as well as myself as this is my second blog in a row where the photography is lacking. I had my phone in my hand when the appetizers arrived but I threw it down in an attempt to get food as fast as I could. There was no time for pictures. It was survival of the fittest. Sadly the results are I have only one photo, as you see above, of my entrée. I think it sums it all up well.
I would like to conclude my review with a more personal note. It is in reference to this past weekends Fun Family Day. I got to see a bunch of my cousins (different cousins than above and yes I have that many) and it was nice to catch-up. I also got to meet some of the smaller members of my family, which was a lot of laughs and fun. The food, homemade, was ridiculous. It was so good I have mentioned it in conversation everyday since I left.
With all of that being said, I am counting down to this weekend where I get to do it all over again, this time with as many cousins as we can gather.
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